LINCOLN, Neb. — The second-ranked Nebraska volleyball team opened its 2018 season with a hard-fought 3-1 loss to No. 7 Florida Friday night in front of 8,435 fans at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.
The rematch of the 2017 National Championship Match was decided by a total of just eight total points. Florida took the first two sets, Nebraska won the third, 25-23, and Florida closed out the match with a 25-23 win in the fourth set. The loss snapped Nebraska's 30-match home winning streak and seven-match winning streak against top-10 opponents.
Sophomore Jazz Sweet led Nebraska (0-1) with 13 kills while senior Mikaela Foecke added a double-double with 11 kills and 10 digs. Freshman Capri Davis came off the bench to finish with seven kills over the final two sets. Nebraska committed 30 attack errors in the match, as the Huskers were limited to a .126 hitting percentage. Freshman Nicklin Hames picked up 35 assists in her collegiate debut and added a team-high 19 digs and two service aces. Sophomore Lauren Stivrins posted a match-high six blocks to go along with six kills, while senior libero Kenzie Maloney added 14 digs and a pair of aces.
Florida (1-0) was led by freshman Thayer Hall, who totaled 20 kills on 60 swings in her first career match. She was the only Gator in double-figure kills, as both teams had 49 kills in the match. Florida out-blocked Nebraska, 10.0-9.5, while the Huskers out-dug the Gators 65-59. Nebraska held a talented Florida offense to .182 hitting, but the Huskers' 43 combined attack and service errors were too much to overcome against a physical Gator lineup.
Set 1: Florida held a 12-9 lead before a Foecke kill and a solo block by Callie Schwarzenbach drew the Huskers within 12-11. But the Gators scored the next three to go up 15-11 at the media timeout. The Gators went up 17-12, but NU scored three in a row off of kills by Sweet and Sami Slaughter and a block by Stivrins and Hames to cut it to 17-15. However, the Gators went on a 4-1 spurt to take a 21-16 lead. Florida finished off the 25-20 win on its 15th kill of the set.
Set 2: The Huskers rallied from a 6-4 deficit to take an 8-6 lead courtesy of a solo block by Schwarzenbach and a kill by Foecke. But Florida answered with a 6-0 run to go ahead 12-8. The Big Red trailed 14-10 when Foecke and Slaughter struck for kills around a Florida attacking error to make it 14-13. Back-to-back kills by Slaughter and Stivrins leveled the set at 15-15, but the Gators gained two-point separation at 19-17 after back-to-back Husker attack errors. Trailing 21-18, Nebraska got a kill from Sweet before a Gator hitting error made it 21-20. Another kill by Sweet, which was awarded to the Huskers after video review, tied the set at 21-21. But again Florida had an answer, scoring the next two for a 23-21 lead. The teams traded service errors to give Florida set point, which they capitalized on after another Husker hitting error.
Set 3: The Huskers went ahead 8-7 on a 3-0 run, capped by a block by Stivrins and Davis. Florida battled back in front, 13-12, on an Allie Monserez ace, and took a 15-12 lead after a pair of Husker hitting errors. NU trailed 17-14, but a kill by Hames and a Florida error drew NU within 17-16. The Huskers were finally able to tie the set when Foecke terminated off the block to make it 19-19. The Gators then hit long after a timeout for a 20-19 Husker lead. The teams sided out to a 24-23 Husker set point on a cross-court kill by Stivrins. After a Florida timeout, Megan Miller sealed the 25-23 win with her first career ace serve.
Set 4: Florida staked a 12-8 lead after a 5-1 spurt. The Huskers clawed back with kills by Sweet and Davis and an ace by Maloney to get within one. Florida extended its lead to 17-13 with back-to-back kills and held a 21-16 lead before Maloney dug a ball over for a kill, and Sweet terminated on consecutive rallies to cut it to 21-19. On the next rally, Sweet and Stivrins stuffed a Gator attack to pull NU within 21-20. A service error made it 22-20 Gators, but Davis killed from the left side to get the Huskers back within one. The teams traded service errors, but a block by the Gators gave them match point at 24-22. After a Husker timeout, the Gators served long to make it 24-23. Florida won on a back-row kill by Hall, 25-23.
Next Up: The Huskers return to action against No. 18 Oregon on Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Devaney Center, or approximately 30 minutes after the 3:30 p.m. Florida-Texas match if it runs long. Oregon fell 3-1 to the Longhorns in the afternoon match on Friday.